Should We Pity Poor, Winless Nebraska?

Nebraska Coach Scott Frost
Despite the Historic 0-6 Start, Nebraska Head Coach Scott Frost Should Keep Looking Up

The  University of Nebraska was once a college football power.  Under Tom Osborne from 1973 to 1997, the Cornhuskers went an astounding 255 – 49–3,  for a winning percentage of 0.836. Osborne subsequently became Nebraska’s longest-tenured coach, ending with the fourth-highest winning percentage in major college football history. Osborne never won fewer than nine games and secured 13 conference titles in his 25 seasons. And for those interested in ancient college football history, before Osborne, there was head coach Bob Devaney.

Bob Devaney lead Nebraska to a 101–20–2 record, with a 0.829 winning percentage from 1962 to 1972.  Delaney brought about an immediate turnaround in the fortunes of Nebraska football. He led Nebraska to a 9–2 record in his first season, which was capped by the school’s first bowl win, against Miami in the 1962 Gotham Bowl.  Wow. Talk about winners. Nebraska could surely use Osborne or Devaney right about now.

Now, the once mighty and proud Nebraska football program has fallen on hard times. Most recently, The Cornhuskers blew a ten point margin and fell to Northwestern, 34 -21, after having a 31-21 fourth quarter lead. A Northwestern field goal cut the lead to 31-24 with about two minutes left in the game. Northwestern would then get the ball back and marched 99 yards with zero time-outs for a game tying touchdown that sent it to overtime. Unbelievable. Just unbelievable, especially for a team that was 0 -5 and searching desperately for its first win.

In that oh so painful loss to Northwestern, Nebraska had the ball first in the extra period. The drive came to a fourth and one, and then a nightmare for Huskers fans. A botched snap and QB Martinez was forced to scramble; he launched one for the endzone and it was intercepted. Northwestern got the ball and got into position to allow kicker Drew Lauckenbaugh to make a 37 yard field goal to give Northwestern the stunning 34-31 win.

Last week, after Nebraska lost to Michigan, Head coach Scott Frost told his players in the locker room at Michigan Stadium that “things can’t get any worse”, and their 56-10 loss to No. 19 Michigan could serve as a “watershed moment” for the program in its first year with a new coaching staff. When they were 0 -5, the Nebraska coach believed that the Cornhuskers had reached the bottom.

But then the bottom fell out, and they lost this heartbreaker to Northwestern to fall fo 0 – 6 for the first time in school history. It’s the worst start EVER for this storied football program.

Incredible. Just incredible. So, are we to feel sorry and compassionate for the Cornhuskers? Some say yes, but most, I surmise, would say no. They had their heyday, and now the mantle for winning big in college football has moved on the Southeastern Conference. The SEC touts such powerhouse schools such as Alabama, LSU, Florida and Georgia, just to name a few.  Ohio State and Michigan, two bragadocious, Big Ten schools, are still powers, so why not Nebraska? It’s a thousand things, none of which can be fixed in an instant. 

So let’s encourage Nebraska.  And let’s encourage all of our friends who are going through a tough time. Things will get better. Things HAVE to get better, right? They have to; they just have to.  Becasue life is like sports and sports are like life.  Trouble don’t last always. 

And always remenber; “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”

 

The DiVincenzo Factor

DiVincenzoVillanova-superJumboDonte DiVincenzo winking after a shot against Michigan on Monday. He had 31 points, five rebounds and three assists and was voted Most Outstanding Player in Villanova’s 2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball Title win.

Credit Ronald Martinez/Getty Images        

Donte DiVincenzo’s name is just like his game: unique and intimidating. I mean, don’t you wish you could have a championship game like Donte DiVincenzo? You know, Villanova’s killer sixth man off the bench who just killed it against upstart Michigan? I mean he KILLED IT! He doesn’t start, and yet he scored thirty-one points, had block after block and timely three pointers to carry his team to victory. It was an impressive performance to say the least. 

One sports writer put it like this: “Had DiVincenzo been in a video game, flames would have been coming off his ball.”

The statistics — 31 points on 15 shots, five rebounds and three assists — still undersell the extent to which DiVincenzo was his team’s fulcrum Monday night. The team’s sixth man, he was the one who stopped the bleeding after the underdog Michigan surprised the 67,831 spectators in the Alamodome and millions more watching on television who had expected a fairly easy victory by Villanova, the top seed.

Before DiVincenzo scored his first basket, Michigan led 14-8. Villanova’s next 8 points were DiVincenzo’s: a 3-pointer, a 3-point play, a jump shot. DiVincenzo responded to ball screens by hitting long 3s from where he was standing or, once, finding Omari Spellman down low on a brilliant bounce pass.

On defense, during one stretch he forced a driving Zavier Simpson into a miss and then, on the next possession, the 6-foot-5 DiVincenzo straight-up blocked an attempted dunk by Charles Matthews. At one point, after back-to-back 3-pointers, DiVincenzo winked at the crowd. He later said he was aiming for Hart.

The moral of the story is this: every team needs a DiVincenzo on their bench because the DiVicenzo factor is so awe-inspiring it sends goose bumps up and down your spine. I’m so happy for him. He could have been a starter on any other team. Instead, he sacrificed playing time and came off of the bench and put the team first. And the end result was another National Championship for Villanova. AND he was rewarded and voted Most Outstanding Player for the Final Four. Wow. March Madness surely went out with a bang.

Sounds like we all could learn a lesson or two from Vilanova and Mr. DiVincenzo. Can you pronounce his name right yet?

Villanova All The Way, Baby!

  

Villanova looks invincible, and virtually, if not totally unstoppable. The Wildcats dismantled Kansas on Saturday night in the second half of the Final Four, and it was so bad it wasn’t worth staying up to watch till the bitter sweet end to hear the final buzzer sound.  So that’s that.  Villanova will defeat Michigan tonight, and it might not even be close.

As for the Cinderella team that everyone wanted to see win it all, the ballerina’s debutant ball ended all too early for Loyola-Chicago. Sister Jean’s prayers took them farther than she thought, but not as far as they wanted to go.

And that sounds just like life. Sometimes our prayers are answered immediately, and other times we must do exactly as the hymn writer says: “watching and waiting, looking above, filled with his goodness, lost in his love.” Sometimes the best place to be is found in Jesus and lost in God.

Sometimes the journey is more important than the destination. Sometimes the lessons we must learn are more important than getting an “A” on the test. And sometimes the final grade is not as important as the scores of notes we’ve taken along the way. If March Madness doesn’t teach us anything, then the madness has been for nothing. The life lessons we learn along this sometimes rocky road called life can’t be for naught. They just can’t be.

In everything there is a lesson. One of them is everything is subject to change. Because the only constant is change. We must be ready to roll with the punches and rock with the boat. And that’s what winners that did not expect to win many games, such as Loyola-Chicago and UMBC and Kansas State did.  And the losers that did not expect to lose, or to lose so early, such as UVA and North Carolina and Kansas, had to handle unexpected headache and heartbreak too.

Sports helps us with the fact that in life, you win some and you lose some. And that’s just the way it is. Because it’s not if you win or lose, but how you play the game.

Don’t Give The Game Away

jim-harbaugh-screaming

Did You See The Game? I did.

I watched the Michigan / Ohio State game yesterday. If you missed it, you missed a treat. It was a great win and a horrible loss both at the same time. Yes, it was a great win for Ohio State to come from behind and beat their archrivals 30 -27 in DOUBLE OT, at home, again. And it was a horrible, almost unspeakable loss.

One sportswriter put it this way:

“There is simply too much pain to process. Losing to Ohio State? Losing in double overtime? Losing with some controversy? Losing the Big Ten East Division? Losing a shot at the Playoff? It’s almost overwhelming. Michigan will bounce back under Jim Harbaugh — and very likely be right there for the 2017 national title — but this loss will sting all offseason. Then again, maybe there’s room for Michigan to make a national semifinal in 2016?”

Michigan had the game in the bag. I mean the game was won and the Michigan Quarterback Wilton Speight and the referees game it away. Yes it was a great game because it had everything: it had defense and turnovers and missed field goals and a pick-six and fourth and inches and a first down controversy in double overtime.

If you didn’t catch yesterday’s game, you missed one of the best regular season college games in college football history Michigan, the better team, had Ohio State on the ropes for most of the game, then choose to gift the game back to the Buckeyes down the stretch. Ohio State wouldn’t have even been in the game had it not been for the interceptions that the Michigan QB gave them. Wow.

Coach Jim Harbaugh has every right to be mad, but the first person he needs to be mad with is himself. He lost his cool and it cost his team five critical yards late in the game when the defense needed to keep the Buckeyes out of the end zone. They did not.

We lead by example. A long time ago someone said, monkey see, monkey do. And the team saw their coach lose his composure, and then they went on to lose the game in typical Michigan, meltdown fashion (the Wolverines have lost five straight to Ohio State at the Horseshoe).

“Outrageous,” Harbaugh said at one point, describing the officiating that he thought cost his Wolverines the game at Ohio State Saturday afternoon. Maybe it did. Maybe it didn’t. It doesn’t matter. What matters is how you handle a brutal loss when you speak to the public. What matters is what you show them. Harbaugh didn’t show much grace.

His senior defensive lineman, however, Chris Wormley, did. “There’s a few calls that I thought could go either way,” he said. “You’ve got to play through those types of calls, handle adversity.” Yes, you do.

And so the lesson is almost lyrical: you may lose and you may fail and you may suffer loss, but don’t give it away. Don’t lose your cool or lose your head or lose your composure. Your opponent may try to grab it or seize it or snatch it or even steal it, but DO NOT give it away.  And that’s just what the Michigan coach and the Michigan team did yesterday.

 

Ohio State vs. Michigan: Impose Your Will

ohio-state-michigan

It doesn’t get any bigger than this. The season and a shot at the championship are on the line.  For these two pigskin powerhouses and football juggernauts, it’s time for the big game against their arch rival. So just about everything that really counts is up for grabs. The annual clash between these rivals means even more this year as the winner is likely to end up in the College Football Playoffs.

It just doesn’t get any bigger than this. In order to win, one team must impose their will and their way upon their opponent.

It doesn’t get any better than Michigan vs. Ohio State @ the Horseshoe. Pre-game and pre first snap, we are asking ourselves and each other these eternal questions: who will prevail? Who will succeed and triumph? Who will impose their way and emerge victorious?  These immortal questions emerge at the initiation of every athletic encounter. And they also surface before every season and afore every game and as we face every down and as we prepare for every play of our lives.

It just doesn’t get any better than this. This pivotal, punctual, national pastime of a matchup will answer questions that beg for answers. And the correlation for you and I is this: will we impose our will over the will of our emotions and feelings and sensations? Can we overcome our dark passions and secret sensations and vile vexations in order to achieve our goals?

We must. And with the help of Heaven, we will. Failure is not an option. And yet if we fail to succeed (this time), we must get back up and get back going, again.  

A Wonderful Way To Win and A Woeful Way To Lose

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 17: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines reacts on the sidlines during the second quarter of the college football game against the Michigan State Spartans at Michigan Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Spartans defeated the Wolverines 27-23. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
ANN ARBOR, MI – OCTOBER 17: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines reacts on the sidlines at the end of the game against the Michigan State Spartans at Michigan Stadium. The Spartans defeated the Wolverines 27-23 after recovering a fumbled punt snap. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Wow. What a game. What a way to win and what a way to lose. Michigan had the game won. And Michigan State had the game in the loss column. For Michigan State, it was a wonderful way to win an away game at your arch-rivals expense. And for Michigan — well, let’s just say that this is yet another opportunity to overcome adversity.

But talk about a heartbreaker. Talk about a tearjerker. Talk about a crazy way to lose and a crazier way to win. Just 10 seconds away from the biggest bang of his young college career, Jim Harbaugh saw his team fumble away a wonderful win. The “Harbaugh Effect” was in full force for 59 minutes and 50 seconds. But those last 10 seconds of the game saw something only legends are made of. The Harbaugh force fizzled and the sensational sizzle somehow turned to drizzle and someway dissolved the wonderful win away.

The victory party at the Big House had to be canceled at the last minute. Or, worse yet, the last second. Michigan had the game. They HAD it. The Michigan punter will need a few friends and fewer sharp objects after fumbling the last snap and in effect fumbling away the game. Michigan had the game won and it just slipped through their hands. Just like that. Because Yogi said, “It’s not over until it’s over.”

And so what can we learn? We can learn this: don’t let a game slip through your hands. Don’t play not to lose. Play to win. Fear and worry and panic and dread have no place in the winner’s circle. Ten seconds till the win? No way Michigan loses that game. No way. Yet they lost, and now they will have to figure out a way to come back and fight back and take back what was stolen from them.

Because this was not just a loss, it was yet another lesson on why we all hate to lose.

“Thou Shalt Defeat Thy Rival:” The First Sports Commandment With Promise

dallas-cowboys-vs-washington-redskins-rivalry

There are commandments for our spirit and commandments for our soul and commandments for our bodies. The commandments for our bodies are the Commandments of Sports. We’ll get to all of the other Sports Commandments later; for now, we want to zoom in and zero on the first Sports Commandment with promise: “Thou Shalt Defeat Thy Rival.”

Defeating your rival, especially and particularly your arch rival, is a command. Your arch rival wants you dead and defeated and destroyed even more than they want to win. Just like Ohio State lives to beat Michigan, and the Boston Red Sox are better when they’ve beaten the New York Yankees, and the L.A. Lakers love to beat the Boston Celtics, the Dallas Cowboys just HAVE to beat the Washington Redskins and the Redskins can’t breathe unless they beat Dallas. In other words, if you can’t make the playoffs, at least beat Dallas.

And last night on Monday Night Football, with the entire sports world watching, the Redskins did what they are commanded to do. The only problem for the bookies is that someone somewhere bet on the Redskins winning, and against all odds, the ‘Skins won. It’s just that no one in their right mind or in their wildest whims or in their deepest delusions even dared to dream the ’Skins would win: but win they did! They beat their rival; they beat Dallas.

Defeating your rival is what you should live for. Defeating your rival is what you should be willing to die for. Defeating your rival is in fact Biblical. Yes I know that sounds so Old Covenant, so Old Testament, but even the New Testament attests to the fact that our enemies must be destroyed. “And the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” Until then, loving our enemies is the “Christian” way to defeat a rival.

And last night the lowly Washington Redskins, on their third quarterback this season, gave all of us reason to hope again. Last night, the underdog came through and won a game that they had no chance – at least on paper – to win. And it was against their rival. Last night, the 2 – 5 Washington Redskins defeated the heavily favored 5 -1 Dallas Cowboys IN DALLAS, 20 -17.

The Dallas – Washington rivalry is one of the fiercest and fiestiest in all of sports, and certainly the most ferocious in the NFL. And for the Redskins to beat the Cowboys with a Third String Quarterback in OT no less, was a miracle indeed. Colt McCoy come out of nowhere and led the ‘Skins to victory with a first year coach and a list of veteran players sidelined due to injury. Talk about pulling the rabbit out of the hat.

So let’s learn the lesson of the first Sports Commandment with promise. Let’s defeat every fiend and every foe that comes at us and comes after us. With God’s help, let’s determine to defeat every nemesis and every naysayer, every adversary and every archenemy that we have, in Jesus name. Amen.

OH, and what’s the promise? Tune in next time . . . unless you want to chime in on what the promise is.